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I would like to know the effect of setting/changing the value of the SPWeb properties AssociatedOwnerGroup, AssociatedMemberGroup, and AssociatedVisitorGroup - the only effect I can glean is that it could then be read later on by other code... is that it? I have a thought that there just might be some special significance behind the scenes, but MSDN is not very forthcoming

If there's something hidden, I could presume something extra for owners and visitors (special override or admin privileges and more guaranteed read or something similar, respectively), but what might (or preferably IS) the extra effect of "member"-ship?

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The Associated* groups are the OOTB Visitors, Members, and Owners groups.

You can read more about this here: AssociatedOwnerGroup in SharePoint

Every Site has 3 Site Groups that are associated Site Groups: Visitors (AssociatedVisitorsGroup), Members (AssociatedMemberGroup) and Owners(AssociatedOwnerGroup).

It doesn't appear that there would be any catastrophic changes in MSFT code if you change this, but as a best practice you shouldn't rely on this group existing as it could have been deleted. That post mentions this as well:

If the the association of these 3 groups is not there then if you check programmatically for the AssociatedOwnerGroup property of the SPWeb it would not return any results and your code might fail...

Update:

I would assume the properties are there to give developers a (semi-)reliable place to grab groups from in a simple security set up. Using Telerik's JustDecompile the only places these properties are used, it checks if the value is null. It uses the properties to automatically propagate the groups when you create a new site with inherited permissions, if there is no owner's group set, the site permissions are only accessible to the site owner, etc. But there wouldn't be any catastrophic effects to reassigning this or setting it to null.

Here is the output from Telerik's JustDecompile:

AssociatedOwnerGroup: AssociateOwnerGroup

AssociatedMemberGroup: AssociatedMemberGroup

AssociatedVisitorGroup: AssociatedVisitorGroup

(It's hard to see, but if you right click and view image you get the full sized image.)

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